Re: [asa] Re: Peter Enns and the future direction of WTS

From: David Opderbeck <>
Date: Sat Mar 29 2008 - 13:54:37 EDT

I appreciate everything you've said here, Denis. My heart breaks over this
also, particularly for Pete Enns personally. And I agree that we (the
Church, and we evangelicals), need to have more open and honest
conversations about our doctrine of scripture and our hermeneutics.
Personally, I found Pete's book extremely helpful in this regard. To the
extent the WTS situation merely reflects disagreement over what Pete said in
his book, that has to be deeply distressing to all of us who want to see
this conversation continue in healthy ways.

But let me note two things. First is that it's extremely difficult to judge
something like this from the outside. WTS has to define its own
institutional identity. A friend of mine at WTS tells me the situation was
terribly complex and difficult because of these issues of institutional
identity and the various constituencies involved. This isn't specifically
to defend WTS' decision (seeing it from the outside, it seems awfully
difficult to defend); it's just to note my own conflicted feelings as one
who isn't institutionally connected to WTS on the "inside."

Second is that we shouldn't despair. The conversation is happening in many
circles. I mentioned a week or so ago Kenton Sparks' book "God's Word in
Human Words." There is also John Goldingay's "Models for
Scripture," Telford Work's "Living and Active," and acticles such as Daniel
Harlow's in the 2008 Christian Scholar's Review. Roger Olson's book
"Reformed and Always Reforming" describes a hopeful "progressive
evangelicalism" in which the old categories are a little more flexible.
Many of our evangelical liberal arts colleges (e.g., Messiah, Gordon,
Westmont), some evangelical seminaries (e.g., Fuller, Regent, North Park),
and some influential publications (Books & Culture) and blogs (e.g., Jesus
Creed) are venues in which these issues can be discussed with greater
degrees of freedom.

There also are movements in hermeneutics that suggest a growing middle way
between isolationist evangelical traditions and ungrounded liberalism,
represented in people such as Anthony Thistleton ("New Horizons in
Hermeneutics"), the New Horizons and Brazos Theological commentary series,
Joel Green ("Seized by Truth"; Green, BTW, is a Fuller prof. who was on the
ed. board of Science & Christian Belief), and I. Howard Marshall ("Beyond
the Bible)". (I confess that these books by Thistleton, Green and Marshall
are still on my "to read" pile but I have a sense of where they're going).

Of course, not all of the foregoing will agree completely with every concern
someone might have with regard to faith and science; they won't even all
agree with each other. And of course, significant portions of the
evangelical academy, and even bigger portions at the popular level, resist
strongly any effort to reform these categories. But there are many
resources available for those of us who hope to participate in an
intellectually honest and spiritually robust evangelical tradition.

On Sat, Mar 29, 2008 at 1:08 PM, Denis O. Lamoureux <>

> Hello everyone,
> Steve, thanks very much for this post. I will forward it to all
> my Sci-Rel students.
> This is a sad day for the Church.
> My heart jumped when I saw the message below because
> I am just finishing a book with a very similar hermeneutic
> as that of Peter Enns, which I call an "Incarnational approach
> to inerrancy and infallibility." But I push the argument a little
> further than Enns in that I explicitly reject the historicity of Adam.
> I praise the Lord for leading me to a Roman Catholic college in
> a major university. As an evangelical theologian, I would never
> have been given the intellectual freedom to think outside the box
> if I had gone to a place like WTS. Actually, my denomination
> college wouldn't touch me when I got out of school in 97. Seems that
> loving Jesus just ain't enough. If one has a PhD in evolutionary biology,
> it condemns them to being hermeneutically "unclean" and out of
> employment, despite being called by the Lord to be a Teacher.
> 24 years ago I felt called to open God's Two Books. Any yes, like many,
> I started the voyage as a young earth creationist. But along the way
> there were a few surprises--Gen 1-11 is not a historical record, and
> biological evolution is a FACT. But through the process the Lord Jesus
> was right there, front and centre. Sadly, I had to leave my tradition to
> find a job.
> Now, I can certainly appreciate what the Board of WTS is doing.
> Board members are wonderfully committed Christians who share
> their terrific professional skills in shaping the direction of a Seminary.
> However, they are not skilled to determine the academic competency
> or theological orthodoxy of someone like Dr Enns. Too many times,
> the Board (and the Constituency) usurps the Holy Spirit inspired office
> of the Teacher (1 Cor 12). This has to change. Our calling as Teachers
> is to instruct the Board on theology, not for the Board to tell us how to
> do theology. Teachers cannot simply be "parrots" of the Board.
> Blessings,
> Denis
> Denis O. Lamoureux DDS PhD PhD
> Assistant Professor of Science & Religion
> St. Joseph's College, University of Alberta
> Edmonton, Alberta Canada T6G 2J5
> Tel: 780 492 7681 ext.246
> Fax: 780 492 8145
> E-mail:
> Website:
> ----- Original Message -----
> *From:* Steve Martin <>
> *To:* ASA <>
> *Sent:* Thursday, March 27, 2008 2:35 PM
> *Subject:* [asa] Re: Peter Enns and the future direction of WTS
> At the WTS board meeting yesterday, it was decided that Enns would be
> suspended at the end of this school year. Here is the letter from the
> chairman of the board Jack White .
> March 27, 2008
> >
> >
> > Thank you very much for your prayers for the special meeting of the
> > Board of Trustees that was held on March 26 to address the disunity of the
> > faculty regarding the theological issues related to Dr. Peter Enns' book,
> > *Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old
> > Testament*. After a full day of deliberation, the Board of Trustees took
> > the following action by decisive vote:
> >
> > "That for the good of the Seminary *(Faculty Manual II.4.C.4*) Professor
> > Peter Enns be suspended at the close of this school year, that is May 23,
> > 2008 *(Constitution Article III, Section 15)*, and that the
> > Institutional Personnel Committee (IPC) recommend the appropriate process
> > for the Board to consider whether Professor Enns should be terminated from
> > his employment at the Seminary. Further that the IPC present their
> > recommendations to the Board at its meeting in May 2008."
> >
> >
> > In order to provide the entire Westminster community with a more
> > complete understanding of the Board's decision and to offer an opportunity
> > for questions and dialogue, the Chairman and Secretary of the Board will
> > join the President on campus for a special chapel on Tuesday, April 1 at
> > 10:30 am. Students and staff are encouraged to attend and participate. Following
> > that special chapel, they will hold a separate meeting with the faculty.
> >
> > Our concern is to honor the Lord Jesus Christ and assure a faithful
> > witness for Westminster for years to come. To that end, please pray for
> > everyone involved during the next two months.
> >
> >
> > Jack White
> > Chairman of the Board
> >
> > On Tue, Mar 25, 2008 at 1:39 PM, Steve Martin <
>> wrote:
> > As many are probably aware, Peter Enns' <>book Inspiration
> > and Incarnation<>has caused quite the heated dialogue in the reformed community over the last
> > couple of years. I personally found I&I to be extremely helpful, and the
> > more I read of & about Enns', the more respect I have for him.
> >
> > Now things might be coming to a head for Enns at WTS<>.
> > I've been following the story on the net the last few weeks but, being the
> > net, I didn't want to jump to any conclusions or really say anything (I
> > certainly can't add much personally). It appears that today there will be
> > an important board meeting where the "Enns issue" will be on the agenda.
> > Again, it is unclear to me what exactly is being discussed and what the
> > possible outcome will be, but I'm sure this is a very difficult time for
> > Enns, his family, WTS faculty and students, and all the extended WTS
> > community.
> >
> > For some brief background on the situation, check out
> >
> > and the two links to articles on competing visions for WTS the one
> > from former WTS Prof Davis is VERY long but definitely worth the read.
> > For some interesting links on current & former students that are supporting
> > Enns see:,
> >,
> > and
> >
> >
> >
> > I'd be interested in comments / reactions from those in the reformed
> > tradition (particularly Presbyterians) who are aware of the situation and/or
> > the historical context of WTS & past church divisions back to the 20's.
> > I'd also be interested in hearing from those that lived through similar
> > controversies (Kline / Van Til etc.).
> >
> > --
> > Steve Martin (CSCA)
> >
> --
> --
> Steve Martin (CSCA)

David W. Opderbeck
Associate Professor of Law
Seton Hall University Law School
Gibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology
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Received on Sat Mar 29 13:56:00 2008

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